This week is National Stalking Awareness Week which takes place from 16th-20th April. The annual event aims to shine a spotlight on the issue, with this year’s theme focusing on reporting stalking.
Stalking is when an individual inflicts a pattern of obsessive behavior towards somebody else, repeatedly intruding on their life and causing distress. This can typically include anything from sending unwanted messages and gifts to following a person in the street or turning up unannounced at their workplace.
Since 2012, stalking has been recognised as a criminal offence in the UK with the maximum prison sentence being 10 years. According to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust – who run the National Stalking Helpline – one in five women and one in ten men will experience stalking in their lifetime, with one million people in the country falling victim every year.
Stalkers fall into several categories. Around 80% of victims are stalked by someone they know, with 45% stalked by an ex-partner and 22% by an acquaintance. It’s rarer for a stalker not to have had any sort of relationship with their victim, but in some cases they may target someone they’ve never even met (such as celebrities).
Motives for stalking vary from trying to win back an ex-partner to those who are looking to seek revenge. Often the perpetrators are likely to be suffering from mental health issues and the effects of stalking can also lead to serious physical and psychological damage to the victim, which is why it should not be taken lightly.
The behaviour exhibited by stalkers is often controlling and obtrusive. If you think somebody may be stalking you, look out for the following, do they:
As soon as the way someone acts makes you feel uncomfortable or if there is the risk of serious harm to yourself or another person then you should seek help.
If you are growing concerned about an individual’s behavior, you can speak to the National Stalking Helpline which is available on 0808 802 0300. This is a free service that can provide support and advice with your next steps.
Don’t just ignore the problem and hope it’ll go away. If a stalker thinks they can get away with it, they will likely continue and step up their campaign.
Write down details of any incidents to help you understand if there’s a pattern of behaviour. Save messages as these can be used at a later date should you take formal action.
Tell the person responsible to leave you alone and inform them that you’ll take further action if they fail to do so. Its best to do this via a message but if it must be face to face make sure someone is with you and you meet in a public place. If they attempt to get in contact again, stop engaging and go to the police.
Avoid posting information that gives away your whereabouts or plans. Increase privacy settings so you can keep tighter control of who can access your profile.
Chances are your stalker may be familiar with your day to day routine, so if you always take the same route to work, mix things up to throw them off your trail.
For peace of mind, some devices allow you to communicate with an actual person who can track your location and stay on the line until you reach safety.
This shows your stalker that you are taking the situation seriously which may hopefully deter them. For non-emergencies you should dial 101 or speak to your local police force.